31 December 2021

Happy New Year! Allons-y!

Where/When am I headed? SPOILERS, SWEETIE.
In the meantime, though, would you like a jelly baby? 
 

12 December 2021

On losing heroes...Anne Rice, 1941-2021

She was one of the first modern fantasy authors I read when I was younger, having discovered "Interview" when the boy who sat in front of me in most of my classes handed a faded copy to me under the desk. "You've got to read this!" And I did...and so on through the early Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches, the spellbinding Feast of All Saints, and Ramses the Damned, etc. 

She turned the Bela Lugosi Dracula and the silent film Nosferatu that terrified me into the beautiful, haunted, cautionary tale of the vampire as Icarus, ever drawing humanity into a dangerous trap just as Anne herself drew us into her stories. 

I am sad to hear this news as I will forever credit her work for being a masterclass for fantasy writers on sympathetic monsters and protagonists that turn into antagonists and then back again.  

Thank you to our Queen of the Damned for sharing your life and work with us, for keeping us to your exacting standards, and for holding space for us in dark and mystical places. Your impact on the world and especially on other writers cannot be measured. 

01 December 2021

Your Regularly Scheduled Hiatus Post

 

Image from Pixabay

Well, I can't think of a better visual representation of me around the holidays, hair on fire and looking like I'm about to fall asleep from fatigue. As a result, the Lettuce will be on hiatus until the new year. This past month's Nano has been a bear from start to finish, and I have a Guardians of Orana novel to put through another round of edits before its release at the end of January.

January, as in two short months from now. Thankfully, the DayJob is in academia so I have a break coming up and when I tell you I will be spending every free moment at the laptop...well, believe me.

Thanks for another year of mostly sharing my weird and wonderful musical taste and for all your support for my writing. It means more than I can tell you, and I'm 100% sincere when I say it takes a village to build a writer. Happy Holidays, and I will see you again in 2022.


29 November 2021

Music Monday: This one's Blue...Monday

 Right, so I'm a child of the 80s. Anyone that knows me knows I wear my GenX with pride, and will even when I turned HALF A CENTURY OLD on Saturday. This song called out to my teenage years from an ad for a video game on telly and I couldn't stop until I found it. This is Em fighting the Shadow Guardians in Rift and [redacted because I cannot seem to avoid spoilers] in Storm, even before I wrote the part where [omg seriously?] that fits it so perfectly. I even had another traffic light moment, though I didn't cry this time. That could be due to the fact that [it's out in January, can you please just wait till then?] in the climactic scene, and this was just a fight. Who knows.

Anyway, let's finish this Nano month strong with a piece that could go behind so many of my fight scenes or just as a camera pans over the Oranian landscape...


27 November 2021

Another Trip around the Sun...

I wanted to be an author, so I
stole a blue box and ran away.
 Apparently when my sister asked me what my plans were for my birthday and I said:

1. To tell everyone I'm 30.

2. To tell everyone I'm 45.

3. To completely ignore it and hope it goes away like I did on my 40th birthday when I was in the US and Simon was still in the UK.

None of those have worked. Somehow, I can figure out the mojo for selling a book, getting a dog to eat breakfast, and making the internet magically start working again at home...but I couldn't avoid the march of time. You can see a photo of one of my last, desperate acts here, but the chameleon circuit wasn't the only thing that wasn't working.

As of today, I am Sally O'Malley, FIFTY YEARS OLD.

Someone tell my brain that when it comes back from wherever it goes when I walk into a room and forget why. Someone tell my body that when the aforementioned brain decides we need to jump up from the couch and then BAM oh, that's what gravity is...

Most people pontificate on the occasion of a milestone such as this. Y'all five loyal Lettuce Readers should know by now that I'm not most people. I'm barely one people, though there are lots of people...and Qatu, and elves, and dragonkind and AI drones and Irish Fae running amok in my head. It's like a badly stitched TikTok in there on a good day.

So I will leave with this thought: I am eternally grateful to the village that has raised me up to this age, and I look forward to the second half of this life with all the excitement and trepidation that comes with being fifty years old.

That's right, I'm FIFTY. FIFTY YEARS OLD. And I like to kick, and stretch, and KICK. (Oh, Molly Shannon, I"m so sorry.)

22 November 2021

Music Monday: More Mood Music

Let's start by saying that I am not the Beatles fan my partner is, not by a longshot. I know enough to know that there was a song at some point called Eleanor Rigby...but not enough to know that "All of the lonely people...." was a part of that song. This version is making the rounds on TikTok right now, and it is just lovely. A total soundtrack song - and when I listen to it, I can see Em and Lex in very heroic situations doing very heroic things that I can't talk about because of SPOILERS, SWEETIE. But this is definitely on repeat for Nano.

I will say, though that the theme of the song resonates with a novel written about escaping from a lonely existence in the real world to a game world...and finding out that it has its own challenges. "Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door/Who is it for?" makes me think of Maddie putting on the "mask" of Em and doing things that she can't do, but who is that for?




Eleanor Rigby
by The Beatles/arranged by Cody Fry

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where the wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father Mackenzie
Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

All the lonely people (all the lonely people)
All the lonely people (all the lonely people)
All the lonely people (all the lonely people)

Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father Mackenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
All the lonely people
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)

15 November 2021

Music Monday: I know, I know, he's dead...right?

So I discovered this song via a friend on FB and while I know the words and the song...this version is so Taeben it's ridiculous. I swear he's been on my mind so much lately that I think a backstory for him may be in the works. I mean, it isn't like he is going to show up in another Orana novel, right? (insert malicious giggle here)

But for now, enjoy the latest addition to my writing playlist. Here's hoping this doesn't bleed into my current NaNoWriMo...



You Are My Sunshine
by The Dead South

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I bowed my head and I cried

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

I'll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me and love another
You'll regret it all some day

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you've left me to love another
You have shattered all of my dreams

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away
Please don't take my sunshine away

10 November 2021

Signing Event! Carolina Renaissance Festival, 13-14 November 2021!

And speaking of my current Nanowrimo project...I will have copies of the first book in the series (plus the rest of my Orana novels and Proud Racer/Clobberpaws) this weekend at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. I'm participating again in a book signing/author meet and greet event with other local Fantasy and SciFi authors. Come out and see us if you're local!!


 

08 November 2021

Music Monday: Lex and Em...and Alex

First let me say that this song is a total guilty pleasure for me because the movie it was written for is the same...and I know it is bad and problematic and all that and yet, I love it. So there. When I heard this in Stranger Things I was up and dancing around...in my head, at least. 

But for now, this song speaks to me of a woman trapped between real life and game life, and the men who may be a little of both. Now back to my Nano noveling!



"Twist Of Fate"
(from "Two Of A Kind" soundtrack)


Do we deserve a second chance?
How did we fall into this circumstance?
We weren't so straight and narrow
This is much more than we deserve

A higher voice has called the tune
Two hearts that lost the beat will now resume
The gift of life extension
By divine intervention

It's gotta be a strange twist of fate
Telling me that Heaven can wait
Telling me to get it right this time
Life doesn't mean a thing
Without the love you bring
Love is what we've found
The second time around

Don't understand what's going on
Woke up this morning, all the hurt was gone
This is a new beginning
I'm back in the land of the living

It's gotta be a strange twist of fate
Telling me that Heaven can wait
Telling me to get it right this time
Life doesn't mean a thing
Without the love you bring
Love is what we've found
The second time around

01 November 2021

Music Monday: Home

The first time I heard this song was at the end of Bright...one of the worst SciFi movies I have ever seen. But the song stuck with me...and now it strikes me how perfect it is for this month's Nanowrimo project. And that's all I'm going to say, because of Spoilers, Sweetie. 



Home
by Bebe Rexha, Machine Gun Kelly, and X Ambassadors

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home, someone take me

Look, I didn't power through the struggle
Just to let a little trouble, knock me out of my position
And interrupt the vision
After everything I witnessed, after all of these decisions
All these miles, feets, inches
They can't add up to the distance
That I have been through, just to get to
A place where even if there's no closure, I'm still safe
I still ache from trying to keep pace
Somebody give me a sign, I'm starting to lose faith

Now tell me: how did all my dreams turn to nightmares?
How did I lose it when I was right there?
Now I'm so far that it feels like it's all gone to pieces
Tell me why the world never fights fair?
I'm trying to find

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home(It's been a long time coming)
Someone take me

Hooooome, ho-o-o-o-me
Hooome, hooome
Someone take me
Hooooome, ho-o-o-o-me
Hoooome, hooome

Look, I been through so much pain
And it's hard to maintain, any smile on my face
'Cause there's madness on my brain
So I gotta make it back, but my home ain't on the map
Gotta follow what I'm feeling to discover where it's at
I need the (memory)
In case this fate is forever
Just to be sure these last days are better
And if I have any (enemies)
To give me the strength to look the
Devil in the face and make it home safe

Now tell me: how did all my dreams turn to nightmares?
How did I lose it when I was right there?
Now I'm so far that it feels like it's all gone to pieces
Tell me why the world never fights fair?
I'm trying to find

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home
Someone take me

I found no cure for the loneliness
I found no cure for the sickness
Nothing here feels like home
Crowded streets, but I'm all alone
I found no cure for the loneliness
I found no cure for the sickness
Nothing here feels like home

Crowded streets, but I'm all alone
Someone take me
Hoooome, ho-o-o-o-me
Take me home
Hoooome, hooome (take me home)
Someone take me
Hoooome, ho-o-o-o-me (someone, someone)
Nothing here feels like home(Hoooome, hooome)
(Take me home)
Someone take me
Hoooome, ho-o-o-o-me (someone, someone)
Nothing here feels like home(Hoooome, hooome)
(Take me home)
Someone take me

27 October 2021

Strid: A Luminous Beings Mystery Launch Day!

It's here! It's finally here!!! The Luminous Beings series has officially begun as its first volume is published today. Click here or on the cover there to visit the book on Amazon, where it is in Kindle, paperback, and hardback format as of today! I can barely believe this day has arrived because it seems forever since Lucy and Annie first knocked on my door to tell me their story.

Several years ago, in what I lovingly call The Before Times, my sewing partner, Rennie ride-or-die, and friend Anne suggested that I should write a book about a duo that solved crime and looked steampunk-fabulous while larking about with giant hounds...not unlike those called Baskervilles. This was after I wrote a short piece about a train heist gone wrong, a mysterious woman with an Irish Wolfhound, and a gun that could shoot a rope of pure electricity rather than bullets. 

I did, and after several revisions and the decision not to include ALL the characters I came up with in one book (because that, children, is how 200k word count/800p fantasy novels are born), I managed to produce the lovely book-baby shown here. It is a steampunk-adjacent reimagining of West Yorkshire in the Edwardian industrial age, with a retelling of Irish mythology, an underwater gorge, and some very large hounds. 

Lucy and Annie Boyd were orphaned when their father and mother disappeared under strange circumstances. Annie, a tinkerer and inventor, had been working on some clockwork to help her mother after an accident in the mill - but losing her mother did not destroy her interest in creating. Lucy, a bookworm and general loose cannon, helps her sister test her creations with an eye to helping local law enforcement solve crime and clean up the village of Ingrow where they live.

How could they know that the murders at the mill were linked to ancient Celtic warring fae, who made their entrance into the human realm via the Strid, a dangerous underwater gorge in the middle of the River Wharfe?

This book is the product of a love affair with the North of England, and I hope that it will intrigue and inspire you as much as that part of the world did for me - and that you find your own Annie to round out your Lucy, and an Aoife and a Beaux to watch your back.

Just be careful where you discharge those weapons, okay?



25 October 2021

Music Monday: Spoilers, Sweetie

Okay, this is the last Monday before Nanowrimo starts, so I'm going to share with you a cinematic trailer from a game, and I want to show you what it is like for me as a writer. Sometimes when I heard a piece of music I can SEE the story unfolding along with it. For this one, I was running errands and this piece came on and y'all...I got to a traffic light and just cried. 

I know y'all are not surprised at all...at the very least I'm sharing my crazy.  Enjoy - the video is beautifully done.

18 October 2021

Music Monday: Unstoppable

 Going along with my love of superheroes and super ballads...this one is a great one for writing inspiration, coupled with one of the best superhero movies I've seen in ages and it doesn't even have Loki! (wrong pantheon) This isn't the original music video but it certainly fits.




Unstoppable
by Sia

All smiles, I know what it takes to fool this town
I'll do it 'til the sun goes down and all through the night time
Oh yeah
Oh yeah, I'll tell you what you wanna hear
Leave my sunglasses on while I shed a tear
It's never the right time
Yeah, yeah

I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am
I put my armor on, I'll show you that I am
I'm unstoppable
I'm a Porsche with no brakes
I'm invincible
Yeah, I win every single game
I'm so powerful
I don't need batteries to play
I'm so confident
Yeah, I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
I'm unstoppable today

Break down, only alone I will cry on out
You'll never see what's hiding out
Hiding out deep down
Yeah, yeah
I know, I've heard that to let your feelings go
Is the only way to make friendships grow
But I'm too afraid now
Yeah, yeah

I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am
I put my armor on, I'll show you that I am
I'm unstoppable
I'm a Porsche with no breaks
I'm invincible
Yeah, I win every single game
I'm so powerful
I don't need batteries to play
I'm so confident
Yeah, I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
I'm unstoppable today

I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am
I put my armor on, I'll show you that I am
I'm unstoppable
I'm a Porsche with no breaks
I'm invincible
Yeah, I win every single game
I'm so powerful
I don't need batteries to play
I'm so confident
Yeah, I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
Unstoppable today
I'm unstoppable today

11 October 2021

Music Monday: Still Feeling It

This song always gets me up and moving, but the lyrics sometimes weigh heavy. Here's to your Mondayest Mondays. May you boogie through them until Tuesday, at least.



Feel It Still
by Portugal

Can't keep my hands to myself
Think I'll dust 'em off, put 'em back up on the shelf
In case my little baby girl is in need
Am I coming out of left field?

Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it's 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still

Got another mouth to feed
Leave her with a baby sitter, mama, call the grave digger
Gone with the fallen leaves
Am I coming out of left field?

Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might've had your fill, but you feel it still

Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it's 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still

We could fight a war for peace
(Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now)
Give in to that easy living
Goodbye to my hopes and dreams
Stop flipping for my enemies
We could wait until the walls come down
(Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now)
It's time to give a little to the
Kids in the middle, but oh 'til it falls
Won't bother me

Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming back?

Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, yeah
Your love is an abyss for my heart to eclipse, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
I've been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it's 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Might've had your fill, but you feel it still

07 October 2021

Is this...Throw WAY BACK Thursday?

Y'all. Just...watch. I am enchanted. The line about being able to afford one's own sword and not needing said knight...perfection.

04 October 2021

Music Monday: Say MY Name

I have never made my love for Tom Hiddleston's Loki a secret. Let's just start there. Loki, the Norse trickster god in their original form AND the MCU's Loki have both inspired a lot of my antagonists AND protagonists, and the Hiddleston Loki is no different. If you can listen to this song and not think of Loki...specifically that clip from ComicCon when the MCU was hyping Thor:Dark World when Hiddleston appears and interrupts a panel as Loki...

Anyway, this video, Loki || Say My Name [collab with StoryDetective], is a perfect blend of the two and I love it. Enjoy, and know that this song will be blaring every time I sit down to write.


Spectrum
by Florence + the Machine

When we first came here
We were cold and we were clear
With no colours in our skin
We were light and paper's thin

And when we first came here
We were cold and we were clear
With no colours in our skin
Until we let the spectrum in

Say my name
And every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

And when we come for you
We'll be dressed up all in blue
With the ocean in our arms
Kiss your eyes and kiss your palms

And when it's time to pray
We'll be dressed up all in grey
With metal on our tongues
And silver in our lungs

Say my name
And every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

And when we come back we'll be dressed in black
And you'll scream my name aloud
And we won't eat and we won't sleep
We'll drag bodies from the ground

So say my name
And every colour illuminates
And we are shining
And we'll never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again

Say my name
As every colour illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again
Say my name
We are shining
Say my name
Say my name
And we will never be afraid again

01 October 2021

It's here! Sorta...

Strid preorder opens today!!

A magical detective tale set in Victorian Yorkshire. Irish mythology meets the Industrial North through a deadly underwater gorge. Sisters Lucy and Annie must find their roots to save West Riding from an ancient threat.

Cast your mind back to a Yorkshire that could have been...



Head to Amazon and preorder your copy today! Strid releases on 27 October and I can't wait for you to meet Lucy and Annie.

27 September 2021

Music Monday: Of Arcs and Stone and Rifts and Storms

So, I'm still thinking about Em and Alex...and Lex today. This song speaks to me when I think of them, but it also makes me think of my own expat journey. To boot, it is just beautiful, speaking of wandering and travel and new lands and home. The best line, the one that encapsulates everything I'm thinking about as I start work on the next Arcstone novel, is the chorus: "In the cathedrals of New York and Rome/There is a feeling that you should just go home/And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is."

(This live version is particularly lovely.)


Cathedrals

by Jump Little Children

In the shadows of tall buildings
Of fallen angels on the ceilings
Oily feathers in bronze and concrete
Faded colors, pieces left incomplete
The line moves slowly past the electric fence
Across the borders between continents

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

In the shadows of tall buildings
The architecture is slowly peeling
Marble statues and glass dividers
Someone is watching all of the outsiders
The line moves slowly through the numbered gate
Past the mosaic of the head of state

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

In the shadows of tall buildings
Of open arches endlessly kneeling
Sonic landscapes echoing vistas
Someone is listening from a safe distance
The line moves slowly into a fading light
A final moment in the dead of night

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

20 September 2021

Music Monday: This is the Time

I heard this song in the car and was struck. Or shook. I might have been shook. Anyway...

This has always been one of my favorites by Billy Joel, and the meaning has changed as I've gotten older. I'm on the other side of that life that he talks about, in the aftermath. But it also speaks to the decisions that are coming for Em in the upcoming sequel to Rift that I'm drafting during nano this year. She has been running madly toward the next thing for so much of her life...when she has time to slow down and look around, what will be left? I think of her when I hear, "You've given me the best of you, but now I need the rest of you."

And come on...Alex/Lex? "So stay with me baby, I've got plans for you..." Right? Maybe that's just me.

And that's all I can say because of SPOILERS, SWEETIE. 




"This Is The Time"
by Billy Joel

We walked on the beach beside that old hotel
They're tearing it down now
But it's just as well
I haven't shown you everything a man can do
So stay with me baby
I've got plans for you

This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
Cause we won't
Although we'll want to
This is the time
But time is gonna change
You've given me the best of you
And now I need the rest of you

Did you know that before you came into my life
It was some kind of miracle that I survived
Some day we will both look back
And have to laugh
We lived through a lifetime
And the aftermath

This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
Cause we won't
Although we want to
This is the time
But time is gonna change
I know we've got to move somehow
But I don't want to lose you now

Sometimes it's so easy
To let a day
Slip on by
Without even seeing each other at all
But this is the time you'll turn back to and so will I
And those will be the days you can never recall

And so we embrace again
Behind the dunes
This beach is cold
On winter afternoons
But holding you close is like holding the summer sun
I'm warm from the memory of days to come

This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
But we won't
Although we'll want to
This is the time
But time is gonna change
You've given me the best of you
But now I need the rest of you

13 September 2021

Music Monday: Right Now

Well, I can't tell you why this song speaks to a project that I'm going to start working on soon because I am notoriously horrible with spoilers...but I can tell you that it is a YA book - a real one, not one that starts as YA and then becomes NA because I'm an old lady who thinks she is still in her late 20s - and that it is a fantasy series. 

But I heard it as I was running an errand yesterday and it hit me that this is the motivation for one of the MCs in this story, especially this line: "Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm / And nothing falls into place, no / Only missed by a fraction / Slipped a little off your pace, oh..." I mean that line could be written on my tombstone or be found if you looked me up in the dictionary. That's my whole life, right there...and that's her life too.

Crap. Spoilers. Anyway...while I'm not a fan of what I like to call Van Haggar, the music in this song is all Eddie Van Halen and his amazing skill on the piano and guitar, and when this mysterious YA story becomes a movie this song will be in the soundtrack, no doubt. 




,/center.
Right Now
by Van Halen

Don't want to wait 'til tomorrow
Why put it off another day?
One more walk through problems
Built-up and stands in our way, ah
One step ahead, one step behind me
Now you gotta run to get even
Make future plans or dream about yesterday, hey
C'mon turn, turn this thing around
, hey
It's your tomorrow
(Right now),
C'mon, it's everything
(Right now),
Catch a magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything
Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm
And nothing falls into place, no
Only missed by a fraction
Slipped a little off your pace, oh
The more things you get, the more you want
Just trade in one for the other
Workin' so hard, to make it easier, whoa
Got to turn, c'mon turn this thing around
, hey
It's your tomorrow
(Right now)
C'mon, it's everything
(Right now)
Catch that magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything
It's enlightened me, right now
What are you waitin' for?
Oh, yeah, right now
, hey
It's your tomorrow
(Right now)
C'mon, it's everything
(Right now)
Catch that magic moment, and do it right, right now
Oh, right now
It's what's happening
Right here and now
Right now
It's right now
Oh
Tell me, what are you waiting for?
Turn this thing around

06 September 2021

Music Monday: An Early Throwback Thursday

So I sat down last night to find something to watch on tv and stumbled across one of my favorite movies from my younger days, The Lost Boys. While there are cultural things that were lost on me as a teenager not growing up on the West Coast, I was mesmerized. To this day I still am, even though I've seen it so many times that I know all the words.

I still say good dog when Nanook knocks the vampire into the bathtub.

So this just makes sense that I would find this movie after discovering an old manuscript in my hard drive and thinking for a few minutes about trying my hand at writing paranormal romance. 

You will all be glad to know that I'm sticking to fade to black for now.


Cry Little Sister (Theme from "The Lost Boys")
by Gerard McMahon

Last fire will rise behind those eyes
Black house will rock, blind boys don't lie
Immortal fear, that voice so clear
Through broken walls, that scream I hear


Cry, little sister (Thou shall not fall)
Come, come to your brother (Thou shall not die)
Unchain me, sister (Thou shall not fear)
Love is with your brother (Thou shall not kill)

Blue masquerade, strangers look on
When will they learn this loneliness?
Temptation heat beats like a drum
Deep in your veins, I will not lie

Little sister (Thou shall not fall)
Come, come to your brother (Thou shall not die)
Unchain me, sister (Thou shall not fear)
Love is with your brother (Thou shall not kill)

My Shangri-La, I can't forget
Why you were mine, I need you now

Cry, little sister (Thou shall not fall)
Come, come to your brother (Thou shall not die)
Unchain me, sister (Thou shall not fear)
Love is with your brother (Thou shall not kill)

Cry, little sister (Thou shall not fall)
Come, come to your brother (Thou shall not die)
Unchain me, sister (Thou shall not fear)
Love is with your brother (Thou shall not kill)

Cry, little sister (Thou shall not fall)
(Thou shall not die)
(Thou shall not fear)
Love is with your brother (Thou shall not kill)

30 August 2021

Music Monday: It Will Never Be Enough

So I'm on what I like to call the Clock App (algorithms be damned) or, as it is actually called, TikTok, and I joined last year during lockdown because I wanted something to do. I expected funny cat videos and a few really cringeworthy dance challenges and don't get me wrong, I found that...and more. There are hashtag communities there, of like-minded folks, such as #booktok and #writertok and so forth, and so many talented cosplayers and actors and the like.

Lately, there has been a lovely trend of readers making videos to try to speak to the reason why we read adventure and fantasy books. Most of the time you see a person reading at the beginning of the video with someone else asking (or the words are written on the screen), "why do you read so much?" And the terribly talented person goes on to show clips from or cosplay characters from several well-known movies/books/tv shows, often becoming the heroes and acting out their lives...because "...I know now that this world will never be enough for me." (by TikTok User @montropolis)

This is why I write, y'all. This is why I continue to write, to quote "Hamilton," like I'm running out of time - this world will NEVER be enough. This song nails it. (Also, I love Kelly Clarkson's version from The Greatest Showman Reimagined, so that's the one I chose.)




Never Enough (from The Greatest Showman Reimagined)
by Justin Paul / Benj Pasek

I'm tryin' to hold my breath
Let it stay this way
Can't let this moment end
You set off a dream in me
Getting louder now
Can you hear it echoing?

Take my hand
Will you share this with me?
'Cause darling, without you

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough, never be enough

Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world, but it'll
Never be enough, never be enough for me

Never, never
Never, never
Never, for me, for me
Never enough, never enough, never enough
For me, for me, for me

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough, never be enough

Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world, but it'll
Never be enough, never be enough for me

Never, never
Never, never
Never, for me, for me
Never enough, never, never
Never enough, never, never
Never enough
For me, for me, for me

27 August 2021

Next time, on Brave Lettuce...

Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay 

So, there are two projects on the horizon that I want to tell you about - two upcoming novels, that are special...SO special to me, but in very different ways.

The first one is special because it is at least three years in the actual writing, but probably ten years in the making. When I lived in West Yorkshire for two years, I took copious mental notes about the landscape, the architecture, and the people, knowing that there was a novel in there somewhere. Then I discovered steampunk and thought I could write a novel in that genre. Spoiler alert? I was wrong. However...I did manage to cobble together a story involving dodgy Irish mythology, an underwater gorge that has killed people (that part is true), and two enterprising Victorian sisters who happen to have very large dogs and solve crimes.

No? Okay, how about this: A magical detective tale set in Victorian Yorkshire. Irish mythology meets the Industrial North through a deadly underwater gorge. Sisters Lucy and Annie must find their roots to save West Riding from an ancient threat. Better?

Anyway, my first Luminous Beings novel called "Strid" will be opening for pre-order on the first of October. Watch this space for more information and ordering links to Amazon.


The second piece that is coming out in November is special to me because it revisits Orana and introduces readers to one of my favorite characters I think I've ever written. She was a secondary character in the Nature Walker Trilogy, though her actions (under the control of everyone's least favorite wizard, Taeben) brought about the resolution of that story arc and brought Gin and Sath into their roles as Guardians. Now that they are off saving the world, again, I thought it was time for my readers to get to know Tairneanach a little better. 

Born into power and forged by betrayal, Tairn's life has blown off course more often than it has kept true. She survived retribution for her role in the death of the Qatu'anari Princess Royal by agreeing to live in the far northern citadel of the dwarves, Thror Mydin, where Tee could keep an eye on her.

A decision to take a well-deserved break from her nanny duties leads Tairn to a chance meeting with an old friend on the road to the Outpost. From there, she joins a rescue mission and goes up against a demigoddess bent on resurrecting an ancient evil and enslaving the above-ground citizens of Orana. All in a day's side trip, right?

The second in the Guardians of Orana series, "Red" will be open for ebook pre-order on the first of November, so watch this space for more info for that book as well.

23 August 2021

Music Monday - Tomorrow is Today

So back when I was in college, I was in a play my senior year called "The Shadowbox." The director chose wonderful music for the opening, intermission, etc. and most of it dealt with the same theme of the play - a look at families in a hospice, each dealing with impending death in different ways. I didn't know anything about anything back then, but boy did I think I was ready to play a 40-something mother of a teenager who was visiting a husband dying in hospice care. 

This song drifts in and out of my life, as do my other two favorites from that play, but today this one spoke to me about my upcoming Nanowrimo project - the sequel to Rift, and the continuing story of a young woman going too far into her gaming universe to be able to hang on to her real life. I've been thinking about Em and Alex a lot lately, and Lex, Alex's avatar in the game and alter ego. And this line sort of jumped out at me in the car: And someday, when your dreams are leaving you, I'll still believe in you. There's sort of a Peter Pan and Tinkerbell quality about videogame characters - do they exist when no one is playing the game? Do they remember things and people? 

If Em stops seeing Lex as a sentient being, does he revert to binary code?

Anyway, this is from what I think to be one of Billy Joel's greatest albums, Cold Spring Harbor, and it always takes me back to a dusty theatre in a small college in Tennessee...I wonder if my Maggie is still walking the boards and still grieving a life she hasn't quite lost yet?


Tomorrow is Today
by Billy Joel

I've been livin' for the moment
But I just can't have my way
And I'm afraid to go to sleep
'Cause tomorrow is today

People tell me life is sweeter
But I don't hear what they say
Nothing comes to change my life
So tomorrow is today

I don't care to know the hour
'Cause it's passing anyway
I don't have to see tomorrow
'Cause I saw it yesterday

So I listen for an answer
But the feeling seems to stay
And what's the use of always dreaming
If tomorrow is today

Still I'm waiting for the morning
But it feels so far away
And you don't need the love I'm giving
So tomorrow is today

Oh, my, I'm goin' to the river
Gonna take a ride and the lord will deliver me
Made my bed, I'm gonna lie in it
If you don't come, sure gonna die in it

Too late, too much given
I've seen a lot of life and I'm damn sick of livin' it
I keep hopin' that you will pass my way

And some day if your dreams are leavin' you
I'll still believe in you

I don't care to know the hour
'Cause it's passing anyway
I don't have to see tomorrow
'Cause I saw it yesterday

Though I'm living and I'm singing
And although my hands still play
Soon enough it will all be over
'Cause tomorrow is today

16 August 2021

Music Monday: It's come to this

 Y'all, anyone that knows me knows that this is one of my favorite songs. Back in the day when I was awake into the wee hours running around Norrath (Everquest), I always had music playing alongside the voices of my group on Teamspeak. Quite frequently this song was in the mix, and it will always remind me of charging up to an angry NPC...as well as swapping out my heals as fast as I could to keep the fighters propped up.

But now it holds a different place in my heart as the absolute theme song for my Nature Walker Trilogy, as well as a fantastic driving song...as long as I have cruise control set. I'm a GenX 80's child, and not ashamed to have this tune blasting. I can't believe I didn't have this one as a Music Monday before!

(Before any of you come at me for misogynistic tendencies...in my head, it's often she or they rather than he...)



Holding Out for a Hero
by Bonnie Tyler

Where have all the good men gone and where are all the Gods?
Where's the street wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life, larger than life

Somewhere after midnight in my wildest fantasy
Somewhere just beyond my reach there's someone reaching back for me
Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat
It's gonna take a Superman to sweep me off my feet

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night

Up where the mountains meet the heavens above
Out where the lightning splits the sea
I could swear that there's someone somewhere watching me

Through the wind and the chill and the rain
And the storm and the flood
I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night

09 August 2021

Music Monday - Wherever Is Your Heart

I'm already thinking about the next Nano event, and I'm leaving Orana behind for awhile, so I'm looking at human relationships rather than elves and Qatu and bored deities. This song speaks to a very basic part of a healthy relationship, be it romantic or platonic - the need to have a home, whatever that looks like, and what makes something/somwhere home. 

Also, y'all - Brandi Carlile. If you haven't discovered her yet, you are in for a treat. Enjoy.


"Wherever Is Your Heart"
By Brandi Carlile

I think it's time we found a way back home
You lose so many things you love as you grow
I missed the days when I was just a kid
My fear became my shadow, I swear it did

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

You made me feel like I was always falling
Always falling down without a place to land
Somewhere in the distance I heard you calling
Oh it hurts so bad to let go of your hand

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

Even when you're high, you can get low
Even with your friends you love, you're still alone
We always find the darkest place to go
God forgive our minds, we were born to roam

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

Oh God forgive my mind, oh God forgive my mind
When I come home, when I come home
Oh God forgive my mind
There's a road that's long and winding, it hollers home
I'm calling home

Oh God forgive my mind, oh God forgive my mind
When I come home, when I come home
Oh God forgive my mind, oh God forgive my mind
When I come home, when I come home

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

02 August 2021

Last Minute Music Monday: You’ll Thank Me Later

Just watch it, that's all I ask...




Rockstar Sea Shanty
By Nickelback

I'm through with standing in line to pubs I'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth and I'm never gonna win
Life hasn't turned out quite the way
I want it to be (tell me what you want)
I want a huge sail that'll hold the squalls
And a big black ship with some cannonballs
Don't wanna join Davy Jones twenty thousand
Leagues under the sea (so how you gonna do it?)
I'm gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I'd even roll my bed and change my name, we...
We all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses driving 15 cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP's with the movie stars
Every good gold digger is gonna wind up there
Every Playboy Bunny with her bleached blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary and today's who's who
They'll get you anything with that evil smile
Everybody's got a rum dealer on speed dial
Hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Gonna sing those songs that offend the censors
Singing those songs that offend the censors
Popping my pills from a Pez dispenser (rockstars don't do mornings)
Get washed up sailors writing all our songs
Get washed up sailors writing all our songs
Lipsync them every night so I don't get them wrong
We'll sing them dusk till morning, we
We all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses driving 15 cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP's with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's gonna wind up there
Every Playboy Bunny with her bleached blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary and today's who's who
They'll get you anything with that evil smile
Everybody's got a rum dealer on speed dial
Hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Everybody's got a rum dealer on speed dial
Hey, I wanna be a rockstar

31 July 2021

Notes from Exile...We had ONE job

Y'all. We were so close. SO close. It was really looking like we would turn this pandemic corner to find the light at the end of the 16 month long tunnel. We had two jobs...well, really, one job.

Get vaccinated. Man, I hate needles and I did it. We talked about this. I had reactions afterward. I powered through it. And you can call this post virtue signalling if you like - I call it letting folks know that I did all of this so that we ALL can get back to normal, not just so I can take off my mask and I can go back to activities. It isn't an I, after all. It's a we. We want to get back to normal.

But we apparently aren't as anxious for that as I am. Because we haven't all* gotten vaccinated. We continue to demand to be maskless. We continue to deny that this virus can kill us. We refuse to stop gathering in large groups and carrying on with our lives as though nothing has changed.

And we continue to ignore that herd immunity doesn't work on a virus that can mutate to continue to spread. 

So now, because we don't seem to care about the us as much as the I, we are seeing cases spike again. We see people getting so sick they have to be hospitalised again. We see health care workers pushed to the brink...again. 

We the people becomes every person for themselves...and if I sound even more preachy than normal, it's because I'm angry. The news is full of politicians - not epidemiologists, but politicians - like the Governor of my state that made it illegal to have a mask mandate. Illegal to do something that hurts no one* but will save everyone. 

Please. Get the vaccine if you can. Wear a mask if you are able. If you can't do those things, stay home. It is so simple. Think about someone other than you or yours. 



*I am not referring to anyone who, due to age or medical/health condition cannot get the vaccine or wear a mask. You are part of why I got it, and why everyone should that is able.


19 July 2021

Music Monday: Yeah, I know, Enterprise...

 I heard something recently that has stuck with my little nerdy heart. I am a fan of the Star Trek franchise more so than others because at its core, it has HOPE. Not dystopian apocalyptic horror that has to be overcome, but hope. I like that. 

This song speaks to me on that level. You can tell me till you're blue that this is the worst series theme song to go along with the worst series (I've heard that almost verbatim) but I don't care - it is one of my favorites because it has so much of that hope that I mentioned. Enterprise was, in the chronological timeline, near the beginning. It was not far out from the firsts - the first space travel, the first contact, and so many others. And please...Hoshi Sato is who I want to be when I grow up so why wouldn't I love it?

Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam...but for now, join me in appreciating this expression of hope. 


Where My Heart Will Take Me
by Russell Watson and Diane Warren

It's been a long road
Getting from there to here
It's been a long time
But my time is finally near

And I can feel the change in the wind right now
Nothing's in my way
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No, they're not gonna hold me down

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith
I've got faith, faith of the heart

It's been a long night
Trying to find my way
Been through the darkness
Now I finally have my day

And I will see my dream come alive at last
I will touch the sky
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No, they're not gonna change my mind

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith, faith of the heart

I've known the wind so cold, I've seen the darkest days
But now the winds I feel, are only winds of change
I've been through the fire and I've been through the rain
But I'll be fine

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
'Cause I've got faith of the heart

I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got strength of the soul
No one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith
I've got faith, faith of the heart
It's been a long road

12 July 2021

Music Monday: As

Just like last Monday, I can't say anything about this without spoiling something. But I can say that it makes me think not only of the current WIP but of several relationships in my novels. Y'all, I didn't set out to write romance novels at all, but my characters fall in love with each other and then what am I supposed to do? 

I'll tell you what...enjoy one of the most perfect love songs ever, so I'm sharing it with you here.


As
by Stevie Wonder

As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love's the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I'll be loving you always

As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new
Do know what I say is true
That I'll be loving you always

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (Always)
Until the ocean covers every mountain high (Always)
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (Always)
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

Did you know that true love asks for nothing?
Her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee?
To last through forever and another day

Just as time knew to move on since the beginning
And the seasons know exactly when to change
Just as kindness knows no shame
Know through all your joy and pain
That I'll be loving you always

As today I know I'm living but tomorrow
Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear
For I'll know deep in my mind
The love of me I've left behind
'Cause I'll be loving you always

Until the day is night and night becomes the day (Always)
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away (Always)
Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four (Always)
Until the day that is the day that are no more
(Did you know that you're loved by somebody?)

Until the day the earth starts turning right to left (Always)
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself (I'll be loving you forever)
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through (Always)
Until the day that you are me and I am you (Always)
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Until the ocean covers every mountain high (Always)

We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet you life times that and twice its double
That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed

So make sure when you say you're in it but not of it
You're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell
Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love
And maybe our children's grandchildren
And their great-great grandchildren will tell
I'll be loving you

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (Loving you)
Until the ocean covers every mountain high (Loving you)
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (Loving you)
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream (Be loving you)
Until the day is night and night becomes the day (Loving you)
Until the trees and seas up, up and fly away (Loving you)
Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four (Loving you)

Until the day that is the day that are no more (Loving you)
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left (Be loving you)
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself (Loving you)
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through (Loving you)
Until the day that you are me and I am you (Now ain't that loving you)
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (Ain't that loving you)
Until the ocean covers every mountain high (And I've got to say always)

Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (Always)
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream (Always)
Until the day is night and night becomes the day (Always)
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away (Always)
Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four

Until the day that is the day that are no more (Always)
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself (Always)
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
Until the day that you are me and I am you
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Until the ocean covers every mountain high

Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream
Until the day is night and night becomes the day
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away
Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four

Until the day that is the day that are no more
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
Until the day that you are me and I am you

05 July 2021

Music Monday: Someone to You

So I mentioned already that this month's Camp Nano is a revision of a manuscript I wrote during a past nano month and a continuation of my Guardians of Orana series, right? Yeah. So there are some things that have to be worked out other than the main conflict (a series of murders that lead to a cult) that I can't talk about because they are spoilery for the one I've just gotten back from the best beta reader turned developmental editor ever...so, yeah. Just know that this is a fantastic song and I heard it this morning and thought, "This is perfect for NAMES REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS."

It's also a pretty boppy tune, with a catchy hook and a story that could be an everyman...and elf...and gnome...and REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS. Dang it. Enjoy.


Someone to You
by BANNERS

I don't wanna die or fade away
I just wanna be someone
I just wanna be someone
Dive and disappear without a trace
I just wanna be someone
Well, doesn't everyone?
And if you feel the great dividing
I wanna be the one you're guiding
'Cause I believe that you could lead the way

I just wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I never had nobody and no road home
I wanna be somebody to someone
And if the sun starts setting, the sky goes cold
Then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall
I really need somebody to call my own
I wanna be somebody to someone
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you (someone to you)

I don't even need to change the world (change, change the world)
I'll make the moon shine just for your view
I'll make the starlight circle the room (circle the room)
And if you feel like night is falling
I wanna be the one you're calling
'Cause I believe that you could lead the way

I just wanna be somebody to someone, oh (somebody)
I wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I never had nobody and no road home (I don't have)
I wanna be somebody to someone (somebody)
And if the sun starts setting, the sky goes cold
Then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall
I really need somebody to call my own
I wanna be somebody to someone
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you

The kingdom come, the rise, the fall
The setting sun above it all

I just wanna be somebody to you
I just wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I never had nobody and no road home
I wanna be somebody to someone
And if the sun starts setting, the sky goes cold
Then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall
I really need somebody to call my own
I wanna be somebody to someone
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you
Someone to you

Upcoming Appearances, 2023

At 742 North, Rock Hill, Fall 2022 So I sat down the other day and looked at my travel calendar for this year. Whew! There is a lot coming u...